A Liberal Democrat motion outlining practical steps to help turn immigrant “strangers” into fully fledged British “citizens” gained the backing of Brent Full Council last night, making Brent the 6th Council to give the campaign its backing.
Councillors backed the principles of the Strangers into Citizens campaign, calling for a one-off naturalisation of long-term irregular migrants in the UK. Initially launched in Autumn 2006 with the backing of church leaders, trade unions and migrant support groups, the campaign now has major political backing.
The campaign argues for a naturalisation by means of a two-year work permit available to those who can show they have been in the UK for 4 years or more. They would gain indefinite leave to remain at the end of the two years, subject to an English language test, a clean criminal record, and references from an employer and community sponsor.
James Allie, Liberal Democrat Executive Member for Housing on Brent Council, said:
“The Strangers into Citizens campaign has noble aims, and we are now the sixth Council in the UK to formally adopt its principles. The reality is most of these people will never be expelled from the UK. We therefore face a choice of ignoring them and leaving them to be exploited and neglected or giving them a chance to earn a right to stay and make a full contribution as citizens. I was proud to move this motion and to secure Brent’s formal support for the campaign.”
Somewhere between 500,000 to 950,000 refused asylum seekers and visa over-stayers have made new lives in the UK. The Home Office admits that most will never be expelled. At current removal rates and costs, it would take 34 years and cost £8 billion to forcibly remove them all.
As irregular migrants are not accounted for in funding to Councils, a one-off naturalization would both bring the many irregular immigrants in Brent and across London out of the shadows and into our communities ; and ensure that the number of people likely to be using local services in an area are most accurately recognised.
The text of the motion read:
a) recognises the need to tighten UK borders;
b) notes the GLA and LSE’s assessment that 618,000 irregular migrants currently live and work in Britain, of whom 500,000 live in London;
c) acknowledges the contribution of irregular migrants to our national economy and to our diverse local communities;
d) notes that more than 69% of Brent’s residents were born outside the UK;
e) estimates that up to 20,000 irregular migrants are long-term residents of the borough of Brent;
f) regrets that irregular migrants are not accounted for in the allocation of funding to Local Authorities;
g) supports Citizens:UK’s ‘Strangers into Citizens’ campaign for the one-off regularisation of long term migrants;
h) notes the support of other local authorities for this campaign;
i) encourages more Local Authorities to support the principles of the Strangers into Citizens campaign and urges the Government to adopt the Strangers into Citizens proposal for a ‘pathway to citizenship’: a work permit for migrants who have lived in the UK for more than a set period of time, following which they are granted ‘Indefinite Leave to Remain’ subject to an English test and positive references from an employer or person of standing in the community.